When locked in an important debate about the future of government, taking your fight to the people is an important part of a politician's job. But it's probably best if you don't actually fight with the people if you want to win them over. We recently got two examples of Republican House members trying to make their case, but doing it in such a way that
To start with, there's the whole kerfuffle over the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., which is technically closed, but has mostly made way for veterans groups that want to visit the site and hold events there. The Republicans have seized on this closure as asymbol of the President's failures and the apparent disrespect it shows to our war heros. That led to Michele Bachmann personally leading the charging veterans, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus offering to buy the monument out, and Texas Representative Randy Neugebauer publicly scolding a Park Ranger, as if she were personally trying to hurt the Greatest Generation. Check out the video, captured by the local NBC affiliate
Whether you blame the Republicans or the Democrats for the shutdown, surely everyone can agree that this lone Park Ranger (or even the whole parks Department) is not responsible for the decision to close the memorial. And they certainly didn't do because of some personal vendetta against veterans. Perhaps that's why the unidentified Ranger said that while it was difficult to block people from the site, she's not ashamed. She's doing her job. That's also probably why a bystander, a federal employee who no longer has a job, came to her defense and scolded Neugebauer for not doing his.
Then this morning, we had Rep. Todd Rokita of Indiana who went on CNN to rail against Obamacare and defend his party's shutdown position. After repeating his previous claim that Obamacare is “one of the most insidious laws ever developed by men” — a statement already lampooned by Jon Stewart — he continued to argument vehemently with anchor Carol Costello.
The segment devolved into a near-shouting match, as Costello rolled her eyes more than once at Rokita's strained arguments ... and his odd way of pointing out that she looks too young to be a grandmother. Then as things began to wrap up, Rokita told Costello that "You're part of the problem," and then finished with coup de grace: "Carol, you're beautiful but you need to be honest as well." That pretty much ended the interview, as you can imagine.
Even if you're on the side of Neugebauer and Rokita, it's hard to argue that this approach plays well with the people who just want their government to start working again. Talking down to public servants and backhanded condescension to news anchors may be staying on message, but it doesn't really do much to sell the message.